Welding robots must be operable without failure
The basis is Panasonic and therefore Japanese, but the flexibility of the welding robots is brought in by the Dutch company Valk Welding. Initially, the welding robot made jobs disappear, but nowadays it helps entire factories in Europe to grow. On our factory sites in Alblasserdam (NL) and Paskov (CZ) there are large halls in which the mechanics of Valk Welding can reconstruct the set-up at the customer. For three days they test the welding robot as if it were already at its final destination. "The advantage is that we test in equivalent conditions," says commercial director Peter Pittomvils. "In this way, both we and the customer are sure and the customer receives the installation with great confidence. A welding robot never gets tired and never has a vacation, but it has to be able to operate continuously without failure."
Development team increases robot efficiency
The development team at Valk Welding provides more and more online and offline welding programs, makes maintenance and changeovers go faster and faster. In this way, it systematically increases the efficiency of the robot. As a result, it is becoming profitable for more and more companies to purchase a welding robot. "We have a Belgian company where only father and son work and even they have a welding robot," says Peter Pittomvils. "Our DNA fits perfectly with the small and medium-sized metalworking (family) companies. We want to work with our customers in mutual trust and in a personal way, not in an environment where everything is standardized. Our competitors in countries like Germany and France have matured in the automotive sector. As a result, their robots lack the flexibility to provide customization. So in that area we differentiate ourselves very strongly which therefore leads to our strong growth, also in those countries"
Approach Valk Welding!
Valk Welding has 175 employees, its own branches in five and its own teams in seven countries. That sounds impressive but if growth was the strategic goal of the family business it could already have been much bigger. "We regularly say 'no' to projects that we consider too large or too risky and we hardly do any active customer acquisition. We prefer to wait until a company approaches us - and there are more and more of them. There must be a click with the client, preferably also a challenge. Valk Welding is driven by the enthusiasm and partly also the genius of its employees. One technical improvement after another is developed here in Alblasserdam. We also share our knowledge with Panasonic and this transparency is perhaps one of the reasons why this special bond between the Dutch David and the Japanese Goliath has lasted for so many decades. On the one hand we are very businesslike, on the other hand our people experience so much pride and pleasure here that someone who works here once for two years rarely leaves."
While the welding robot initially had a reputation for destroying jobs, nowadays the machine is impossible to imagine life without and is even desirable. "Since the Far East went on lockdown for months during corona, since the explosion of container prices or a ship blocking the shipping lane, there has been a realization that we need to strengthen production in Europe," says Peter Pittomvils. "The best compliment I've had in that regard was from the managing director of a large Belgian company. 'If we hadn't switched to your flexible systems 20 years back, we'd be far away in a low-wage country, just like our sister company.'"